Updated: Feb 23, 2022
Mycoplasma In Cats & Its Link to Anemia
Every pet owner can tell you that there are days when their animal companions are excited and energetic, and days when they are more relaxed or even lazy. Cat owners in particular aren’t surprised by their feline friend’s tendency to lay about, but it might be a good idea to monitor the frequency and duration of these lazy spells since an increase in lethargy might just be indicative of a Mycoplasma infection-causing feline anemia.
What Is Feline Anemia?
Feline anemia, or anemia in cats, is a blood-related condition that results from lower than normal levels of red blood cells. This red blood cell deficiency means the blood is less able to supply oxygen and other nutrients to the rest of the cat’s body. Lack of oxygen and other nutrients that your cat typically relies on to be delivered by the blood can have serious consequences, and depending on the severity of the anemia, can easily be fatal.
Some of the causes of feline anemia are lack of nutrients in cat food, a severe injury causing loss of blood or internal bleeding, and infections caused by pathogens like Mycoplasma that allow the pathogen to target red blood cells. While anemia in cats might not be very easy to spot since it can vary in its severity and is an internal infection and is not visible on the skin, there are definitely indicators that responsible pet owners can be on the lookout for.
Symptoms of Anemia In Cats
There are a variety of ways in which anemia in cats presents itself, but below is a list of some of the most common symptoms that are easily observable by a sharp pet owner:
· Loss of appetite
· Weakness/Decreased physical activity
· Difficulty breathing or heavy breathing even while not exercising
· Weight loss
· Sleeping longer or more often than usual
· Pale skin, nose, tongue, and/or mucous membranes
What is Mycoplasma?
Mycoplasmas are a type of very tiny bacteria that lack a cell wall, allowing them to take many different shapes and making it impossible to classify them according to conventional bacterial shape categorizations. These microbes are very widespread, and it is very common to find different types of Mycoplasma in cats, dogs, humans, and other pets and farm animals.
Despite their environmental abundance and frequent interactions with human and animal hosts, many species of Mycoplasma are not able to produce strong symptoms; but this isn’t always the case. Certain common species of Mycoplasma in cats have been shown to be associated with anemia and pose a serious health risk to the infected animal.
Symptoms of Common Mycoplasma Species
A study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery in 2018 demonstrated that M. haemominutum, M. turicensis, and M. haemofelis species of Mycoplasma were prevalent in cats for a very long time. All of these species of Mycoplasma target red blood cells and hinder their ability to effectively provide oxygen to tissues, and the researchers found that even in cats with healthy immune systems, the M haemofelis species of Mycoplasma was capable of producing mild to severe anemia in cats.
This graph demonstrates the effect that different Mycoplasma species can have. Notice how M. haemofelis decreases hemoglobin, which is responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood. The decrease in hemoglobin is the cause of anemia in cats infected with Mycoplasma.
While these are the most common types of Mycoplasma infections in cats, and the corresponding symptoms of anemia they produce can be recognized, there are sadly more types of Mycoplasma species that can cause problems. The list of common symptoms for anemia in cats given above doesn’t include symptoms related to other different types of Mycoplasma since not every Mycoplasma infection targets the blood. There is a huge diversity in regard to which organs are targeted by different Mycoplasma infections, and for that reason, it can be very difficult to know for certain whether symptoms observed are indicative of Mycoplasma, another pathogen, or even both.
When to Take Your Cat to The Vet
It can be a tempting option to try and use home remedies or seek alternative care for your pets when you first notice they have some condition, but that is absolutely not recommended for cats exhibiting the symptoms listed for anemia. Many of the symptoms of anemia in cats may only initially show up as behavioral changes, such as sleeping more or being less active, regardless of whether the anemia is caused by a Mycoplasma infection or some other factor. These might seem like small changes that don’t matter but they are important factors to monitor, and they definitely provide evidence that something is wrong. Any of the symptoms listed for anemia in cats warrants a trip to the vet.
Keep in mind that anemia in cats can present as a spectrum in terms of severity, and not all cats will exhibit the same symptoms. While behavioral indicators are typically the best evidence a pet owner will have, if there are any externally observable abnormalities such as pale tongue and/or mucous membranes, these are signs that your cat is critically anemic and needs immediate care! Anemia is serious, and if it is not treated properly and as soon as possible by a trained veterinarian, it can easily become a lethal condition.
How To Treat Anemia In Cats With Mycoplasma
Generally speaking, anemia in cats infected with Mycoplasma will disappear by treating the underlying cause of the anemia: the Mycoplasma bacteria themselves. Except for rare circumstances in which cats become so anemic that they need a blood transfusion for immediate survival, there isn’t really a better option than to treat the underlying cause of the anemia.
There are a variety of different antibiotics that have been shown to be effective at clearing Mycoplasma infections such as doxycycline, marbofloxacin, and pradofloxacin. These antibiotics work well to kill off Mycoplasma bacteria that are attacking a cat’s red blood cells and can allow a complete recovery. Unfortunately, it’s not treating a Mycoplasma infection that’s difficult; it’s determining that the anemia is actually being caused by Mycoplasma.
How to Diagnose Mycoplasma In Cats
Traditional diagnosis and treatment of Mycoplasma infections are unfortunately very broad-sweeping and have a significant chance of being either ineffective or taking much longer than anticipated. There are a few reasons for this. When a patient first presents symptoms, it is common practice to take a blood test, skin swab, or some other biological sample depending on the affected area (since not all Mycoplasma infections necessarily target blood) to use for a cell culture growth test.
In a cell culture test, the microbes present in the sample taken are grown in different conditions in a lab and are identified based on which conditions they grow under. One of the main drawbacks of this approach is that in addition to being time-consuming, mycoplasmas can be difficult to grow in cell cultures and might not appear even if they are present. Alternatively, even if a Mycoplasma culture is successful, there’s also the possibility that the patient has multiple species of infectious bacteria present at the infection site and only 1 of those species is detected.
In either case, the typical treatment is to prescribe general antibiotics. Without a targeted approach aimed at all pathogens causing the infection however, it is likely that the antibiotics will not be effective against the infection. In fact, general antibiotics that do not kill off the infection can result in antibiotic resistance that will prolong the infection and make it harder to treat. Fortunately, traditional methods of diagnosis and treatment aren’t the only option available.
New and Powerful Treatment Alternatives
Researchers at MiDOG LLC have been able to develop a new form of diagnostic test that doesn’t rely on cell cultures but instead uses a revolutionary new technology called Next-Gen DNA Sequencing. This method makes use of DNA sequencing to achieve a specific, accurate diagnosis without the limitations of cell culture. In addition, the test has a much faster turn-around time and can provide veterinarians with a clear diagnostic picture of an infection in as little time as 2 days!
Even in cases where patients have a coinfection where culture tests might only detect one pathogen, the DNA sequencing test is able to detect multiple pathogens even when one type of pathogen outnumbers the others 100 to 1. Additionally, clinical cases where a patient develops antibiotic resistance in response to an ineffective treatment with general antibiotics can be resolved by determining exactly which antibiotic resistances are present and changing the treatment accordingly.
An Accurate Diagnosis Means Less Stress For Your Cat
Going to the vet is no fun for either pets or their owners, but when it comes to infections like Mycoplasma, there’s no good alternative. However, that doesn’t mean that your pet should have to suffer vet trips more than necessary. Testing for anemia will require a blood test, and a Next-Gen Sequencing test for Mycoplasma could also be performed with the same blood sample. Nobody likes having to have their blood drawn but making sure it’s a one-time deal for your pet by making an accurate diagnosis the first time can save your pet unnecessary discomfort.
For that reason, pet owners who are not only concerned about the effectiveness of the treatment but also the discomfort of their animal should ask their vet if they know about or use Next-Gen Sequencing diagnostics tests like the MiDOG test. While Mycoplasma species like M. haemofelis target the blood and require a blood sample, other types of infections like a skin infection could be resolved with a quick and painless skin swab. Either way, this technology can help provide pets a more comfortable treatment alternative in addition to its superior efficacy.
The DNA sequencing test developed by MiDOG LLC has already helped diagnose and treat patients with various types of infections and help them get a head start on the road to recovery. Despite the love and responsible care that so many pet owners give to their fluffy family members, Mycoplasma and other infectious agents aren’t always able to be prevented. Just being aware of the up and coming options available for facing pet care uncertainties can make a big difference. With the help of informed pet owners, veterinarians, and the kind of technology backing the MiDOG test, we can make a big positive impact on the number of pets living happy, healthy lives.
Tasker, Séverine, et al. “Haemoplasmosis in Cats: European Guidelines from the ABCD on Prevention and Management.” Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, vol. 20, no. 3, 2018, pp. 256–261., doi:10.1177/1098612x18758594.